Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Cases against 6 units filed for polluting environment

Cases against 6 units filed for polluting environment


By Sadia Qasim Shah
PESHAWAR, Dec 29: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in an attempt to implement the National Environment Quality Standards (NEQS) has registered cases against six units of the Hayatabad industrial estate, official sources said.

The units lacked treatment facility for the hazardous waste, which caused serious threat to the environment and were discharging untreated effluents into River Kabul, the sources said.

The industries which were found violating the NEQS included four match factories, one paper mill and one packaging mill. Notices under Section 16(2) of the Pakistan Environmental Protection Act, 1997, were issued to the owners of the industries to appear before the EPA director general and clarify their position, the official said.

"These cases were prepared against them after the owners of the industries failed to install plants for treatment of the effluents. They were given 60 days to take measures to control the pollution created," an official said.

For the commercial units in the Hayatabad industrial estate, a treatment plant for effluents was set up nearly a decade ago. "This plant is not working properly and has added to environmental degradation," the official said.

Another waste treatment plant was established at Warsak Road a few years ago with the financial assistance of the Asian Development Bank. The plant also presented a bad example of planning, the official added.

Mohammad Hafiz, a resident of the Hayatabad township, said that the waste water discharged from the industrial units passes through the main residential area and Hayatabad Medical Complex.

The toxic water also passes near the Kucha Ghari refugee camp where it was causing health hazards, another resident said and added: "The EPA is a toothless agency and the numerous requests of the residents of the affected areas to take measures to stop environmental degradation has fallen on deaf ears."

EPA officials confirmed that not a single unit out of 80 in the Hayatabad industrial estate had installed a waste water treatment plant and the toxic water was ultimately discharged into the channels opening into River Kabul.

According to a survey report by the PCSIR laboratories, no waste water treatment facilities had been provided for the industrial units in the NWFP."The EPA can only refer cases of those violating the NEQS to the environmental tribunal. The EPA has no funds to set up treatment plants," an official claimed.

According to the PEPA, 1997, if the EPA confirms that a violation has occurred "which is likely to cause or is causing or has caused an adverse environmental effect" the agency can direct the responsible persons to take measures in a specific time or face cases in the environmental tribunal.

"In case of non-compliance, whoever contravenes the laws can be fined with one million rupees and additional fines up to Rs100,000 for everyday during which failure to pay fine continues," according to the PEPA, 1997.

"A combined environmental tribunal for Punjab and the NWFP was established in May 2003 to effectively deal with the violators of the NEQS and the PEPA, 1997, as the EPA was not able to take legal action before introduction of the new law," the official observed.

"The EPA has prepared PC-1 for setting up a combined waste water treatment plant for the effluents of the Hayatabad industrial estate," the official said, adding that initially they faced problems, but the Town-III administration assured them of cooperation.

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